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Women in Distress: A Literary Analysis Essay

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Hedda Gabler written by Henrik Ibsen and Medea written by Euripides both present the ideas of women who have either been wronged in life or simply have lives which have taken a turn for the worse, who find themselves in times of distress. The playwrights therefore use different techniques to portray them, their suffering, and what they resort to do to ease this pain, and in Medea’s case, to fulfil her revenge.
The former play is set in late nineteenth century Norway. Hedda Gabler must deal with a various number of situations which eventually build up and lead to her demise. She is General Gabler’s daughter, but no longer lives the upper-class life that she is used to. Upon getting married to Jorgen Tesman, she falls to a middle-class life with a man she does not love and shares nothing with. Hedda is unable to adjust to her new life and only seems to find entertainment when imposing her superiority and power on others. The tragedy of this play is that she can never adjust to this, and with time, she simply can not take it anymore and gathers the courage she needs to end it all.
Medea presents a different situation. Set in Classical Greece, Medea, the protagonist, is betrayed by her husband Jason. He has found a second wife in the daughter of King Creon and has dishonoured Medea. Upon realizing this, she falls in a state of distress, swearing upon the gods that she will get her revenge. This is how she schemes to kill both King Creon and his daughter, in addition to her own children. The murder of her two sons is the way to deal Jason the most painful blow, and although it causes her remorse and anguish, the pleasure she gets from Jason’s suffering is greater than this.
One of the most important literary techniques used by ...


... middle of paper ...


...” (p. 59)
In the end, both playwrights are very effective in portraying women in times of distress. This can be observed in Hedda Gabler who leads Lövborg to his death, destroys the manuscript of his book burning his and Mrs. Elvsted’s child, and in the end, ends her own suffering by committing suicide. However, I feel Euripides is much more successful in this since he transmits Medea’s feeling of despair more strongly throughout the whole play, and his powerful and tragic imagery, bringing about the death of innocent children, and the controversial end where the gods do indeed favour Medea, are all more successful.



Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. Hedda Gabler, trans. Una Ellis-Fermor, in Hedda Gabler and Other Plays. London: Penguin 1961. Pp. 261-364.

Euripides. Medea, trans. Philip Vellacott, in Medea and Other Plays. London: Penguin, 1963. Pp. 17-61


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